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Mayberry Makes Strong Argument for Roster Spot

March 20, 2009
by Christine Cartafalsa

Shane Victorino’s talent and ability in center field pretty much sealed the fate of minor leaguer Greg Golson. There wasn’t much of a chance for him to see the lights outside of the minor league. Noting the need for right-handed bats in the minors, the Phillies swapped Golson for John Mayberry, Jr. in a November 20th trade with the Texas Rangers.

However, Mayberry may just be a little overqualified for that position.

A two-time first-round draft pick (Seattle Mariners in 2002 before the Rangers in 2005), Mayberry, Jr. has had a lifelong passion for the game. His father, John Sr. – a Kansas City Royals alumni with 255 home runs in his major league career - was no doubt an inspiration and lit the path for him. Mayberry, Jr. has been doing his best to follow in Dad’s footsteps throughout his four years in the minors, batting .255 with 442 hits, 82 home runs and 257 RBI’s.

Now, thanks to an eye-catching debut at the Phillies Spring Training camp, Mayberry, Jr. may be making his own imprint as he battles to make the 25-man roster of the World Champions. So far he has contributed to the Phillies power with 14 hits, 5 doubles, 10 RBI’s and 3 home runs in 52 at bats, the most for any player in Clearwater this spring. He is only one digit behind Ryan Howard, the spring’s premier home run hitter. Mayberry, Jr. also has stolen two bases. Should he continue to produce throughout the remaining two weeks down in Clearwater, he may prove himself to be the remedy for a lefty-heavy starting lineup and bench.

Still, his readiness may be in question. Mayberry, Jr. has never played a game on the major league level and, despite impressive numbers when he makes contact with the ball, racking up 16 strike outs will not aid his case. Not to be discouraged, Mayberry, Jr. spends time talking with his potential teammates as well as taking regular batting tips from Manuel and coach Milt Thompson in efforts to improve his swing and stance. His goal as a perceived power-hitter is to prove that he can still be a force to be reckoned with and not strike out as much.

Another possible roadblock that he may encounter is a nearly full bench with Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins, Eric Bruntlett and Matt Stairs holding vigil for their own spots on the roster. Should the Phillies elect to keep both back-up catchers Chris Coste and newly acquired Ronny Paulino, right-handed batters are found and there wouldn’t be any room for Mayberry, Jr. in Philadelphia. There’s plenty of need for him in the minors, where he could get more regular at-bats than he would on the major league level and improve his already noteworthy skills in the batters’ box, becoming an even greater menace to unsuspecting opposing pitchers as a Phillie of the future.

But Charlie Manuel seems too in awe of his talent to dismiss the idea of Mayberry, Jr. playing for the Phillies this upcoming season.

“He’s got a lot of potential and a real good chance to be a really good player”, Manuel was quoted as saying, referring to Mayberry, Jr. “I think sometimes it takes you awhile to get it, it takes you a while to get used to pro ball… he’s at the [age] where it’s a good time for him to take off as far as higher baseball. With the talent he’s got, there’s no reason he can’t play in the big leagues.”

So as his future remains up in the air, Mayberry, Jr. has no reason to allow the uncertainty to get the best of him. He’s thrilled just to be out on the field with Howard and Jimmy Rollins and have the opportunity to tap into their wisdom. He’s also very aware that no doors close should he not make the roster this season.

“My dad has mentioned time and time again that there are a lot of teams out there that if things don’t work with one team, as the case was with his career, they might work out with another,” Mayberry, Jr. stated in an interview.

Mayberry, Sr. had been drafted by the Houston Astros in 1967, but didn’t become a major league regular until 1971. He then burst into the scene with the Royals, hitting .298 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in his first season.

As long as John Mayberry, Jr. has that to think about, he’ll do all right.

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